My Story for Today

I went to see The Taming of the Shrew earlier this week, and I think that you should go too. Its great fun and your attendance will help support your local Shakespeare Festival in their year of financial uncertainty.

But if you’re familiar with the play and uneasy with the idea of subjecting yourself to a play with such a strong misogynistic message, read about why I think that you should always give The Taming of the Shrew a chance:

Sometimes when I finish reading a neat book, finish watching a challenging film, or just think an interesting thought, I immediately want to find someone to talk about it with. But that’s not always realistic. Maybe my friends don’t read the same books that I do, they don’t see the same movies, or maybe they weren’t struck by them in the same way that I was. The world looks like a different place to different people. So in the absence of anyone to talk to, I’ve been trying to write out my opinions and reactions to things that I’ve come across that I find worthy of thought. Maybe someone will read them, maybe someone won’t. Regardless, I have been writing semi-frequently for a little while now, and if you’re interested, here is where they’ve been posted:

I had an opinion about a movie I watched. Give it a read if you’re interested/bored.

Sage Fatherly Advice

"Son, when you’re out there travelling the world, there are some important things that I want you to remember. Getting enough to eat will sometimes be difficult. Once or twice during your travels, you’re inevitably going to lose track of when your last meal was. By the time you realize how hungry you are, you likely will not have access to any sort of substantial meal, maybe only a few snacks. When someone approaches you with a plate of assorted cheese, you might be tempted to eat the whole plate. You’ll think that all is well until later that night when you realize that your hasty meal has blocked up most of your uh, internal plumbing. Son, what I’m trying to tell you, is that sometimes its better to go hungry." 

-Gordon upon returning from Peru.

I wrote a shitty poem on my study break.

Sometimes I think about how happy I’d be

If I had never come to university. 

I would work up north, amidst all the oil,

and find pleasure in the wage

I would receive for my toil.

My aspirations would not be complex:

I’d want to buy a house,

to fill with objects.

I would need a wife

who could enjoy the suburbs with me

We’d live a ‘normal’ life.

Oh, how happy I’d be.

All attainable goals, not hard to achieve,

The life may sound dull,

oh, but I would believe.

Believe in a God

who would send me rewards

for a lifetime commitment

of leaving my soul unexplored.

Believe that I was not ignorant, racist, or rude,

but confident that MY opinions 

were the only way that life could be viewed.

I would not believe

in the value of art,

in the power of poems,

or in the first truth of Descartes.

Nor would I see the beauty 

that nature offers each day,

but thats not so bad I suppose,

it all sounds a bit gay.

But I made my choice

to get a useless degree

and now this lifestyle of bliss

is not availible to me.

Now I have an education,

but no career I’m afraid.

People keep pointing out, 

what a mistake I have made.

Yes, looking back on it all,

I can easily see,

how four years of arts

was not the best choice for me.

Happy International Women’s Day

I was reading through a text for one of my English classes a few weeks back, when I came across an interesting quotation. In reference to the Canadian peacemaker identity, it said, “…we must promote an understanding of a shared history/herstory of violence and peacemaking…”

My reaction to this quotation was not a mild one. What the fuck is a herstory? The word history doesn’t have a gender attachment. Its greek. Historia. It does not mean: HIS. STORY. COME ON PEOPLE.

It can be argued of course, that the meanings and implications of words change, and that the language has to change with it. My annoyance with the existence of ‘herstory’ as a word however, goes beyond that initial wave of rage over the  etymological/semantical issues with the term. The entire concept of a history/herstory dichotomy creates a gender divide where none needs to exist.

Speaking as student of both English and History, I’ll be the first to admit that the Department of History at the University of Alberta, and the the study of history as a whole, is very male dominated. Its a boy’s club. It always has been. In fact, at times, it seems to be the one indomitable bastion of masculinity amidst the ever increasing number of women in Arts programs. A man can still feel very secure in his masculinity when announcing to the world that he is a history student. He studies things like war, politics, economics. Manly things. He surrounds himself with logical facts and rational arguments. There is no talk of feelings or emotion. I can’t even express to you how many times my masculinity has jokingly been called into question when I tell people about poems that I’ve studied, plays that I’ve read, or novels that have been inspiring to me. I don’t have to defend myself when I talk about Napoleon or Samuel de Champlain. But I do have to defend my interest in Jane Austen and Shakespeare’s sonnets. The idea of ‘herstory’ does draw a great amount of attention to the fact that history students exist in a male dominated field, studying (for a large part) the history of men. And I can appreciate it for this reason. But beyond that, what does ‘herstory’ actually mean in the context of the study of history? What does it ‘do’?

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The Weather.

Winter sure sucks doesn’t it? I hate it when I have to put on a coat and start my car ten minutes before I can even think of going somewhere. Why can’t my shoes be year-round shoes? I miss riding my bike in the river valley. The roads sure are slippery! I miss shorts.  Its so coooooold! I miss laying in the sun. The sun sure does set early doesn’t it? I hate how dark it is all the time. Did you see how much it snowed last night? Yep, there is nothing worse than the winter.

But there is, isn’t there? Something worse. And that is people who talk about how much they hate the winter. Traffic is moving slower? You should be used to it by now. You have to scrape your car off before you can go anywhere? We live in the north. Your feet are freezing while you wait for the bus? It happens every year. Deal with it. Why are you surprised? All of these things happen literally every year. They’re not a rare occurrence. So stop talking about it.

So which kind of person are you? Do you hate the winter? Or do you hate the people who hate the winter? Personally, I’m not a fan of either group.

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Blaine. From Vancouver.

It was my first history lecture of the term. Actually, lecture is the wrong word. There are only twelve people in my class, so its more of a seminar, though the Faculty of Arts refuses to label it as such. My professor walked in the room and asked us to introduce ourselves to our fellow classmates, but with a twist.

“I want you all to take five or so minutes and talk to the person sitting next to you. This class structure will only work if we’re all comfortable with each other. Ask them about themselves. Get to know them. Heck, add them on Facebook if that will help.” A chuckle echoes throughout the room. An obvious joke. “Then, when the five minutes are up, I want you to introduce your partner to the class.” The class dispersed into pairs, and eager to get this exercise over with I turned to my left, ready to explain what it is that makes me special and unique in a class of my fellow fourth year history students. And this is how I met Blaine.

“He.l.. my n.m. B…n.” Blaine mumbled in introduction, sweat already forming on his brow. What did he say? His name is what? Oh well, I’ll figure it out as I go.

“Nice to meet you, my name is Rob.” A small silence followed. 

“So tell me about yourself,” I started.

“Well… I-uh. I like… to work out- NO! No. Don’t tell them that. That won’t do. I like… I guess I like…” The sweat on Blaine’s brow had grown and was now dripping down his increasingly red face. 

“What about you? What do you like to do?” Blaine then asked, perhaps believing that he answered my question, though his thoughts never reached an audible level.

“Well, I guess I really like live music. I go to a lot of concerts, folk concerts espec-”

“Look! Just tell them… Just tell them when they ask… I don’t have Facebook. Just tell them that. I’m… really just… I’m not comfortable. With people looking at my Facebook.” 

“No problem,” I responded, wondering how much mental strain a man could undergo before his nose started bleeding.

“I’m just … when I … NERVOUS …. know?” Blaine clearly wasn’t responding well to this seminar-style class. “…Vancouver…”

“What was that?” I ask.

“I used to live in Vancouver. Tell them I used to live in Vancouver.”

So that was how I met Blaine from Vancouver. The most nervous man I have ever seen in my life.

As You Love Yourself.

Lots of different people have lots of different criticisms of Christianity, lots reasons why that religion doesn’t really ‘work’ for them. Maybe they disagree with the actions of the church. Maybe God didn’t help them in a time of need. Maybe they just find the whole thing illogical and contradictory. Well for various reasons, Christianity doesn’t really ‘work’ for me either. But despite this, I’ve always found merit in the main teachings of Christ. If everyone who claimed to be Christian actually followed his teachings, I have no doubt that the world would be a better place. “Love your neighbour as you would love yourself”. Some variant of this phrase exists in every major religion. It is a simple message of love and understanding. So simple in fact, that it is hard to take issue with it. Go ahead. Try. Think of a way to interpret this message which would turn it into a piece of bad advice. I couldn’t. For twenty-one years, this went unchallenged in my mind as a simple rule that every person should attempt to follow. So imagine my surprise when my English professor listed this as his main problem with the Christian doctrine. 

“My problem with this Christian notion of loving thy neighbour as thyself, is that it implies that one SHOULD love themselves. This has always struck me as peculiar. Nobody is perfectly content with who they are, and why should they be? Christian children are taught this rule from a very young age, to “love themselves”. But self-loathing is such a powerful force. If everyone loved themselves, then what would cause them to improve who they were? There would be no growth, no change, no self-discovery, no enlightenment. To love one’s self is to be ignorant, to be complacent, to discourage the critique of the self. And ultimately, to encourage others to do the same.”

I don’t know if I agree with him in entirety, but he has definitely given me something to consider. Perhaps it should be a privilege to love your self, a sort of prize for fully examining who you are and improving upon that image. Then again, once you attain that self-love you are basically admitting to perfection and the inability to further progress spiritually. He’s certainly left me with a lot to think about. I suppose I’ll have to start attempting to loathe myself. Just a little bit at a time. Just to see if he knew what he was talking about.

A Forgotten Bond.

James Bond has never been a franchise that I’ve ever cared very much about. I never saw any of the films while I was growing up, I’ve never read any of Ian Fleming’s books, and I’ve never even played GoldenEye on N64. But of course, since Bond is a part of popular culture around the world, my childhood was full of cultural references to MI6’s finest agent. When I saw my first Bond movie (Casino Royale) in 2006, I was immediately familiar with the characters, the story, the pacing, and the style. It felt like I’d been following the series for my whole life. I was fourteen years old and all it took to entertain me was a burly, suave, secret agent beating up all of the bad guys. I loved it. Film of the year.

And then two years later, humanity was graced with a sequel, which was, for many reasons, exceedingly horrendous. I haven’t watched it since that first time, so I can’t explain what it was exactly that I hated so much about it, but I won’t debate its merits and failings here. It was bad. I was disappointed that it didn’t live up to the rest of the franchise, forgetting of course, that I hadn’t ever experienced the rest of the franchise.

In the last week I’ve been invited out a few times to see the latest film, Skyfall, but I declined each time, still feeling the sting of the last movie. I wasn’t ready to risk being disappointed again. What would it be? The return of Casino Royale? Or the sequel to Quantum of Solace? 

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